CNAs, or Certified Nursing Assistants, are entry-level healthcare professionals. Many remain CNAs throughout their careers, but plenty of others pursue additional schooling to avail themselves of different career opportunities. Indeed, many registered nurses, nursing administrators and other professionals started out as CNAs. If you are thinking about becoming a CNA or already are, familiarize yourself with the popular advancement opportunities to more effectively map out your career.
Top 8 Career Opportunities for CNAs
Many CNAs progress into the following roles later in their careers:
- Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse - Progressing from CNA to Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse, or LPN/LVN, isn't difficult. Many schools offer CNA-to-LPN programs that make it especially easy and affordable. As an LPN, you will assume greater responsibility for your patients while commanding higher pay and better benefits.
- Registered Nurse - Not surprisingly, many CNAs aspire to be Registered Nurses someday, but start out as CNAs to get the ball rolling on their careers more quickly. By earning your Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, you can become an RN in as little as two years. With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, however, you can progress more easily into more advanced roles.
- Legal Nurse Consultant - After becoming an RN, a variety of new opportunities will open up to you. To be a legal nurse consultant, for instance, you typically just need an RN license and some relevant work experience. These professionals assist attorneys and law enforcement agencies by doing research and, in many cases, testifying as expert witnesses in court.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist - This position as well as the remaining ones on this list require an advanced degree such as a master's or doctorate. Clinical nurse specialists help develop standards of care at hospitals and other facilities. If you'd like to move away from working directly with patients, this is a good option to consider.
- Nurse Practitioner - With an advanced degree, an RN can progress into a role as a nurse practitioner. These professionals are essentially a step away from being physicians. Many have their own practices. Needless to say, the pay and benefits are excellent.
- Managed Care Nurse - The world of healthcare is convoluted and confusing. Managed care nurses help simplify things by acting as liaisons between patients and healthcare providers. You'll need an RN license and an advanced degree, but the extra schooling will pay off handsomely later.
- Certified RN Anesthetist - With a BSN and the completion of a CRNA program, which typically takes 18 to 24 months to complete, you can become a CRNA. These healthcare professionals administer anesthesia and assist surgeons and others during operations. The work is demanding, but immensely rewarding.
- Nurse Administrator - If you have a knack for managing others, this may be the career path for you. The typical path is to earn your BSN, your RN license, and then either your Master of Science in Nursing or PhD. As a nurse administrator, you will oversee RNs and other staff. It is very fulfilling work, but very little patient interaction is involved.
Contrary to popular belief, becoming a CNA is not a dead-end street. Rather, it's often the first step in what eventually becomes a very successful career. With so many opportunities out there, you're sure to find it more than worthwhile to pursue additional education.